Zimbabwe

Lizard Attack

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I’m very anti killing any sort of creature. Sometimes though, if they pose a mortal threat to humans around here or any of my feathered and furred horde, I do assist them off this mortal coil. Like the one and a half metre mamba in my office that I nearly stood on last year. Can’t have snakes that can have you dead in a couple of hours in or around the house.

A huge monitor lizard has been popping up around and about lately scaring the crap out of everyone. I was hoping that he’d just go away. No such luck though. I chased him out of the palm tree the other day, where he was ripping open weaver nests and eating the baby birds. Actually I threw a candle holder at him from the window I spotted him from, not being keen to go near the nasty looking bugger. They’re pretty vicious if you go near them and this one was the size of a medium dog. The candle holder worked though – he headed off and I forgot about him.

Yesterday in the middle of slaving over a hot computer I suddenly didn’t “feel right”. I know that sounds mad – it felt mad too, but something definitely just seemed wrong. Thinking that I’d lost my last marble again, I took myself off to make some tea. Looking out of the window, I saw five of my chickens standing still as statues with their necks stretched right out. This weird little scenario was more than enough to have me zooming out to see what was causing it. When I reached them they just eyeballed me, unfroze, and went about their business.

Unsuspecting me then headed into the henhouse to check for eggs, and turning the corner, nearly stood on bloody Godzilla as he prepared to chomp down on a terrified hen cowering in the corner. He immediately hissed, turned, and sprang at me. Obviously I let out a bloodcurdling yell and ran like hell, brave soul that I am. This brought Dzingy (who works in the garden) rushing over brandishing a large pole, and the dog brandishing some large teeth. Everyone leapt into the fray. I tried really hard to get Sprite away from the lizard, but for once he totally ignored me, and I had visions of his face clamped in those powerful hissing lizard jaws. Fortunately Dzingy quickly whacked it a mean shot on the head with his pole, taking it down and killing it instantly.

Sprite’s behaviour was an eye-opener though. A really Lassie kind of moment. His mother was a huge German Shepherd bred specifically to be a security dog, and quite scary, but his dad was my beloved old softy Labrador, Odin. I always thought that Sprite totally took after his father. He’s generally very sweet, plays and buggers about and wouldn’t harm a fly. The chickens swipe bits of meat right out from under his nose, and one of them always hangs around with him, pecking at spots on his coat. He just sighs and carries on. Yesterday he was total attack dog as far as that lizard was concerned. He was not having it in his henhouse. Good for him! So he got an extra big bone to share with his chicken buddy after that. Thank goodness I got my ominous feeling when I did though – mad or not – if I had arrived a few seconds later, I would have lost one of the horde. And we can’t have that.

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Dodgy Drivers

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The traffic on the road to Harare yesterday behaved so badly that for once I was glad of the excessive amount of roadblocks along the way. With Easter coming up the police have erected huge signs depicting some really nasty accidents. The first one had me wondering if it was actually necessary to have no choice in seeing that sort of thing. I for one really don’t like seeing that sort of thing. Then I saw a real accident – upside down truck. Then another. And then things really got exciting. Just because my car can go really, really fast doesn’t mean that it should – on these particular roads in any case. There are potholes all over the place, the road is very narrow with some nasty drops from the surface down to the sand, over mountains, around loads of blind corners. You have wildlife, cows, donkeys, goats wandering around, not to mention unroadworthy vehicles being driven by people who really shouldn’t be driving at all.

There was a terrifying bus that must have been clocking about 160 kilometres per hour, that kept careening past – tilting wildly every time, then stopping at bus stops along the way to pick up unsuspecting passengers before starting the game again. He very nearly had the side mirror off. Some guy hung around a centimetre away from the rear bumper for a half an hour before he was thankfully spotted and pulled over by a policeman who’d been lurking behind a tree for some reason. Braking for a goat would have had the bugger on the back seat. The rest of the road users were going far too fast and doing all sorts of other dangerous things, including tossing empty beer bottles out of windows, to notice the gory signs along the way. Pity, because I’m pretty sure that some of them had their own pics taken at some point on yesterday’s trip, and eyeballing those terrible scenes might have slowed them down a little.

I don’t understand people who say that if the speed limit is X then that is how fast they’ll go, and faster if they like – regardless. I love driving fast. There is nothing better than zooming along in a powerful car, but I don’t want to be one of those poor wraiths who haunt the roads of the world. So in Zimbabwe, I don’t often zoom. This has proved lifesaving on more than one occasion as many an Eland bull can attest to. It doesn’t matter where you are though, those idiots that think everyone is really impressed at them belting down the road at 180 kilometres per hour, or thinking that trying to see how close they can get to your bumper at 120 is a really cool game are found all over the world. I think I’ll stay well away from tarmac till well after Easter anyway. Keep your eyes peeled and be safe.

Till next time friends. xxx

A nicer bit of road

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The Bad Old Days

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A few months ago we had a glut of radishes from the garden. Not being fond of waste, I peeled a pile and pickled them. This morning, after realising that I had run out of gherkin slices for my cheese pancake, I added several of these instead. I tell you this only to let you know that the pickling of radishes should never be contemplated, and if you are ever confronted with such a thing, don’t eat it. The problem is that they really are very nice. The larger problem is that they appear to be dangerous. I don’t think I’ve ever had a worse bellyache. These radishes have got me thinking though.
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When Zimbabwe’s economy totally melted down a couple of years ago, the country got to the point where nothing was available to buy. People starved. We were a lot more fortunate than most. I’ve spoken about how horrible this was before, but this morning’s pickle peccadillo had me remembering how inventive we all got. Zimbabweans are an especially canny nation. They’re known not only for their friendliness, but also for their ability to generally make a plan. When we first realised that it was actually happening – we were living in the middle of an absolute economic collapse, we all dithered a little, and for quite a while went without most things that we generally now take for granted. Towards the end of the hard years, a group of us used to shop online from a South African supermarket, and everything would be trucked up once a month. Before that we had “runners”. These beloved intrepids would hop on board some fairly hazardous buses and taxis, zoom over the border to neighbouring South Africa, sleep on benches in parks, buy your groceries, pop them on top of more terrifying buses and taxis and deliver them right to your door. I remember my runner very fondly. We’re still firm friends, and she now has a thriving business from her personal shopping days. This didn’t work so well with things that had to be kept cold though. After several months without essentials such as cheese and bacon, experimentation begun in earnest. Life without cheese is no life at all.
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Living in a farming community, milk and meat were a lot easier for us to get hold of than for those poor souls living in the bleak cities. Panir or soft cheese, made by stirring lemon juice into simmering milk and then straining, was learned first. Inserting a tablespoon of pepper and a triangle of processed cheese (if you could lay your hands on one) into the middle of it, then leaving it in the fridge to mature for a week produced a rather lovely result. Thinly sliced belly pork sprinkled with salt, brown sugar, allspice and cloves left to soak for a few days produces something that quite a few people still make, even though you can buy pretty much anything you like here now. My favourite fish shop has cheese and seafood flown in from all over the world every week, so I don’t often think about those crazy food experiments. A couple of people became totally self-sufficient, making everything themselves apart from loo rolls, and still pretty much are that way. We are so used to living with solar power and generators that we probably wouldn’t suffer too much if the zombie apocalypse really did happen. The zombies wouldn’t get to eat anyone here either before some clever Zimbo discovered the joy of undead pie, or something to that effect. I learnt a lot from those days though. I never waste anything if I can help it. Apart maybe from radishes from now on. I’ve learnt that people are much more resilient than they think they are. And also that amazing friends can be found in very unexpected places.
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Tomorrow Zimbabweans vote for their new constitution, and I really hope that all goes well from there. It would be a fine thing indeed if this country could forget all about the terrible hardships they’ve endured, and move forward to happiness and health. They deserve it. One thing that stands out for me is that no matter how bad things got, I never came across many people here who lost their smiles. Thinking of those hungry days also got me thinking of how people banded together then. We helped each other in all sorts of ways, we got to know each other in ways that we never would have in times of plenty, and I for one, fell further in love with the people of this great continent. Here’s hoping for peace and prosperity for Zimbabwe from now on.

Till next time friends. xxx

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Princess

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Madam said to me, “When you write your cookbook Princess, maybe it would be better if you don’t call it Africolonial Cuisine.”

She does not like that word.  Colonial.  She is much ashamed of what her ancestors did to us, here in Africa.  Of course, I understand her shame, I have met her parents after all.

My book is not of those things, those times of great suffering, or indeed of the sufferings of today.  It is of cooking.  My cooking.  My Africolonial Cooking.  That is what it is after all, and I will not be as the ostrich, and hide my face beneath the soft sand, believing that if you cannot see it, it is not so.

I must look now, and see, which dish we shall serve first.

© Jo Robinson 2012